The chances are you recognise the street in this picture. But you might not realise why. It is Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, and it was the setting for one of the most famous British television adverts ever. Remember that 1973 Hovis commercial starring a bread delivery boy pushing his bike up a steep cobbled hill, with Dvoˇrák’s New World symphony throbbing in the background? It was the cheesy voiceover in a thick Mummerset accent that lodged in the memory. “Last on my round was Old Ma Peggotty’s house. ’Twas like taking bread to the top of the world.” In 2006, the Hovis ad was voted viewers’ all-time favourite. Not, one suspects, because people were mad about the wholesomeness of Hovis, but because they were mad about the wholesome images of village life. Nothing tugs as hard at the heartstrings as nostalgia.
Directed by Ridley Scott, who later found fame with Alien and Gladiator, the ad evoked a forgotten England of morning mist and thatched roofs, an England in which everyone had time to talk to one another and there was fresh-baked bread on every table. It gave Shaftesbury the kind of publicity most towns can only dream about. Gold Hill had already been used as a movie location in John Schlesinger’s 1967 classic Far from the Madding Crowd, starring Julie Christie and Terence Stamp. But Hovis took it to another level altogether as an “I-know-that-street address” – good news for anyone lucky enough to own a property there.
Gold Hill is a steep cobbled street in Shaftesbury. It is famous for its picturesque appearance; the view looking down from the top of the street has been described as “one of the most romantic sights in England.” The image of this view appears on the covers of many books about Dorset and England, as well as on countless chocolate boxes and calendars. At the top of the street is the 14th-century St Peter’s Church, one of the few buildings remaining in Shaftesbury from before the 18th century. Adjacent to the church is the former Priest’s House (Sun & Moon Cottage), which is still part of the Gold Hill Museum building but is now housing a small shop. The ancient cobbled street runs beside the Grade I listed walls of the ancient Shaftesbury Abbey built by King Alfred the Great; the origins of the wall are not known, but it is presumed to have been built in the 1360s, when the abbess was given royal permission to build town defences. Each year the town hosts the Gold Hill Fair to raise money for local charities.
“The television ad will certainly give the property a lot of recognition,” agrees Giles Wreford-Brown of the local agent Symonds & Sampson, which has just put number 8 Gold Hill on the market for £360,000. “Perhaps it will also add value, although it is too early to say. When the ad first came out, people assumed it had been shot somewhere in the north of England. To find a street like this in a town within commuting distance of London comes as a nice surprise. It has helped make Gold Hill a much sought-after address in a popular town.” “Gold Hill was already known locally as Hovis Hill when I bought the cottage,” says Sue Keeling, who paid £55,000 for it in 1987. “Everyone remembered that ad.” She later sold it to her mother, who lived in the house until this January, when she moved into residential care.
You would think that fresh-baked bread would be a distant memory on Hovis Hill, and that the residents would order sliced loaves online, to be delivered to their doorstep in a supermarket van. Well, you would be wrong, certainly as far as number 8 is concerned. Until shortly before her mother moved out, Sue Keeling brought her a daily loaf of bread which she had baked herself. With its crooked houses and cobblestones, Hovis Hill might seem like olde England, remote from the real world, but the passions that animate it are very much alive. For a romantic, it could just be the best address in Dorset.
Certainly there was a bit of nostalgia at the Oxshott Bridge Club last night as no less than 15 Tables sat down to contest our Teams Championship. The Winners get the opportunity to contest the Wanborough Cup at the Wimbledon Bridge Club later in the year, so there was plenty of interest and excitement among each Team of Four. You can read all about the evening's play in the Report by clicking on the "Competitions" tab in the Menu to the left of this box, and again on "Competition News" tab on the sub-Menu. Alternatively you can study the full Leaderboard and the individual Travellers by clicking on the "Calendar & Latest Results" tab and again on "Wed 8 Mar".